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Reporter's Notebook

By Christopher C. Pappas, Crimson Staff Writer

Morris A. Grant of Somerville gripped his cane tightly as the sun lit up his 68-year-old face underneath a bus stop's glass cabana in Central Square last Saturday. He took a deep breath and leaned back as his No. 47 bus arrived, and zoomed off without him on board.

"On days like today," the retired factory worker said, nodding, "I have all the time in the world."

As last week's "heat wave" pushed the temperature into the 60s, residents took to the outdoors in force, swarming the squares and jamming the recreational paths in Cambridge.

With the calendar proclaiming the official start of spring, locals are rejoicing, saying their lives, jobs and daily activities are made easier and more pleasant by the seasonal transition. Even considering the clouds and showers of early this week, Cantabrigians are praising the sunny season.

Grant, a veteran of World War II, was en route to visit his brother in Boston, and said the winter weather prevents him from making the trip from December through February.

"I just can't get outside with all the wind and cold temperatures," Grant said, taking off his cap and dabbing his brow with a handkerchief.

"I don't get around very well," he said, waving his cane in the air. " I'd rather stay by the heater than try to go out in that cold stuff."

During winter, Grant said he has to rely on neighbors and family members to run errands and do shopping because he doesn't want to risk his health by going outside.

"If you slip on some ice and break a hip, you're done," he said flatly.

Last week's warmth brought a crooked grin to Grant's face as he sketched out his plans for the coming months. But all that was on hold momentarily, as he soaked up the sunshine that drew him outdoors for the longest period of time in months.

"The gods of spring are being very good to me today," he said.

Jean O'Keefe, 44, did not have the time to bask in the sun as she herded her three children into the station wagon after a half-day of shopping in Harvard Square. Though she didn't have time to enjoy it, she heaped praise on the warm weather, crediting it with making her job as a full-time mother much easier.

"I'd love to be able to go for a walk or do yard work," O'Keefe lamented, popping the trunk and packing it full of the day's purchases. "This kind of weather makes me yearn for that extra hour of leisure."

"But in the middle of winter, being a mommy is unbelievably hard. You have to bundle up three little bodies, get them away from the snowbanks and be prepared for the whining and the complaints," she said, nodding as she recalled winter's challenges.

"But once spring comes, it is such a breeze," O'Keefe said, estimating the warmer weather frees up half an hour of her day.

The winter of '98-'99 was one of the warmer and drier winters on record, according to meteorologists, and O'Keefe considers herself lucky that the temperatures were not as cold as usual.

"Really, with a big family it is easier and more comfortable to go into hibernation," O'Keefe said as she shuffled through her purse for keys and lollipops. "I almost feel like we can live our lives now that it's starting to get nice out."

James Loranger, 33, saw an increase in customers at his Davis Square flower stand last weekend. He said his business is boosted by warmer temperatures, even when it rains.

As prospective customers looked at and sniffed his merchandise, the Somerville resident recounted some of his past jobs.

"I've done jobs where I had to be on the street in the dead of winter. I've been frost-bitten and I've got bruises from falling," Loranger said as he surveyed the sidewalk for potential buyers.

Loranger said he frequently changes venue, but added that the weather has a greater effect on his business than the location.

"When it gets chilly, no one will give you the time of day," he lamented, as a young couple bought some roses.

"I don't do this all the time or anything, but when spring and summer roll around, it's real nice," Loranger said.

Spotting an advancing group of people, Loranger stopped talking to stand proudly behind his stand. They passed without stopping, and Loranger looked at the ground.

"But things like this aren't fun to do," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. "I don't really care about the weather for myself, only what it does to my work. And good weather is good for it, so I am happy."

Carlie Partridge, 19, a jogging enthusiast out for a 10-mile run, contrasted Boston's weather with that of her native Seattle.

As Partridge stretched in front of Weld Boathouse, the sun peering through the clouds and a breeze ruffling her hair, she said she was amazed by the spring-like weather and the city's ambiance during her first foray into Cambridge.

"We've had 92 straight days of rain in Seattle," she said, sighing. "It's so refreshing to be here where it's pleasant. It really lifts your spirits."

Partridge, a sophomore at the University of Washington, said she plans to transfer to a Massachusetts college next academic year. Upon arrival in the area, she said she knew immediately that Boston was the place for her.

"The people here are so much more considerate than they are portrayed out West," she said, explaining that Bostonians have a reputation for rudeness.

"Maybe it's this springy mind-set. I guess people around here are finally waking up after winter," she said.

But true New Englanders have learned not to discount winter, even after its official end. It was no joke when two feet of snow was dumped on the region during 1997's so-called April Fools' Day storm.

Well aware of the area's fickle weather patterns, and, wagering that recent record highs will soon give way to bone-chilling cold, locals took full advantage of the warm weather.

Boston resident Jane P. Campbell, 57, an avid power-walker, halted her strides along the Charles as a flock of geese crossed her path. She chuckled as the animals waddled off, and said she does not care what the future holds, and is concentrating on today.

"I wouldn't be surprised if winter staged a comeback," she said, rolling her eyes. "We always seem to get one last hurrah of snow and ice around here."

"But just look at this," she exclaimed, drawing her hand from the towers of the Boston skyline--with the cloudless sky as its backdrop--toward the towers of Harvard. "Just totally spectacular."

Asked if seasonal changes result in a change in mood or attitude, Campbell said the answer is obvious.

"Can't you just feel it? It's in the air. Go over to Harvard Square or into Faneuil Hall and you'll know what I'm talking about," she said. "Everything is so fluid, everyone is moving around and doing their thing. It's all so alive."

Campbell she has been in a "slump" the past few weeks, but now feels rejuvenated. She said everyone feels "full of life and vitality" when spring comes, and that everyone is "more pleasant and enjoys the world around them more."

"Even with the rain showers yesterday, everything seemed so fresh," Campbell continued. "Spring is here, and we're all coming out of hibernation."

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